What Is Social Commerce? (And How to Take Advantage of It)

By
Jeff Reekers
June 12, 2015

A basic understanding of social commerce, the next key trend in our Retail Trends series (which has also covered big data and CSR in retail), is a valuable asset for all wholesale brands with eCommerce portals, as well as those doing some volume of direct-to-consumer online sales. Social commerce is where social media meets eCommerce. In other words, it is how social media engagement translates into online sales transactions. You may, for example, post a picture of a product on your Facebook page and include a link to buy it via your eCommerce portal. After a customer makes a purchase (and the interaction “converts” into a sale), you can then track all of the data regarding the transaction, including where it came from, i.e. the link on Facebook. There is an enormous amount of industry data available on social commerce, and it all suggests that the trend is skyrocketing. Some estimates have social commerce accounting for 5% of online sales for 2015. It may not sound like much, but this figure is anticipated to continue growing rapidly in the coming years. The phenomenon even landed on Google’s 2015 list of digital trends in retail. As is the case with most things related to social media, direct-to-consumer social commerce often takes the spotlight. While this is relevant for wholesalers who do have B2C eCommerce channels, it can also be relevant for brands with B2B eCommerce portals. Here are some suggestions to use the social commerce trend to your advantage:

Social Commerce Tips

1. CONCENTRATE ON FACEBOOK

The numbers suggest that Facebook is the source of an overwhelming majority of social commerce transactions. According to a Shopify report, Facebook drives 63% of all social media visits to Shopify online stores. The next runner up, Pinterest, only drove 13% of visits. Furthermore, the report found that 85% actual orders resulting from social media engagement could be traced back to Facebook––an enormous piece of the social commerce pie. The lesson? Engage with end customers (and/or retail buyers) on Facebook. While it may not create a huge influx in sales, it’s a valuable insight for those brands with limited marketing resources. If you find it difficult to maintain an active presence across multiple social media platforms––if you simply don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with your Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and Facebook accounts and need to concentrate on just one platform, Facebook might be the best choice. Keeping your Facebook account up-to-date with information about product launches and eCommerce promotions, for example, is a good way to hedge your bets. Keep in mind, however, that social commerce transactions from other social media platforms are increasing as well. Shopify reports a 79% increase in orders from Pinterest and a 122% increase in orders from LinkedIn.

2. FOLLOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it can also be extremely helpful to simply to follow customers to the social media platform that they prefer to use. If you and your B2B customers aren’t active on Facebook, for example, but are members of the same LinkedIn group, that is the obvious place to publish information about new releases or promotions for your B2B eCommerce portal. Posting in one centralized place tends to be easier on them and faster for you. They can then follow a link back to your portal to make purchases immediately.

3. PUBLISH SUPPORTING MATERIALS

As outlined in a previous post, using a B2B eCommerce portal is a great way to stay more connected with your buyers and provide them with materials like product training videos, merchandising guidelines, new product information, etc. While you wouldn’t necessarily want to publish some of those materials publicly on a social media platform, you can use social media to keep customers updated as to what materials are available on your site. Using social media to simply to drive more traffic to your B2B eCommerce site can increase both customer engagement and sales.

4.TEST AND DO WHAT WORKS

Social commerce generates plenty of real-time data––see which platforms result in the most conversions (both site visits and purchases), and go from there. There is no substitute for jumping in yourself and “getting your hands dirty.” You should be able to say, for example, that announcing a new product via Facebook led to more e-commerce sales than doing so via Twitter. Just follow the numbers!